Friday, November 1, 2013
Today's Soul Food - Not Your Grandmothers Health Dangers
For over 300 years soul food, often equated with comfort food and good times, continues the legacy. In fact, as far back as slavery times the food known as "good times" food included ingredients and cooking techniques of today's soul food.The term "good times" food came when after a week of work or special holidays the slaves received a reward of food they enjoyed the most. The food became known as good times food to the slaves. In the 1960's the term "soul food" came into vogue.Now soul food has evolved into a multi-million dollar industry. Building celebrity chefs who secure million dollar book deals, restaurants and product endorsements. But soul food has traditionally had another less popular distinction ... that distinction was it's health dangers.Traditionally soul food included high amounts of fat, salt, sugar and other high calorie ingredients. In addition the cooking methods often included unhealthy cooking methods and techniques such as deep- frying in animal fat. Often breads, biscuits, cakes and pies also included animal fat as well.Traditional soul food has resulted in many health concerns such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other health issues for African Americans.With the many health problems stemming from the ingredients and cooking methods of soul food a new wave of changes is taking place. New cooking methods, techniques and ingredients has caused soul food to evolve into a healthier, leaner, lighter food choice than ever before.This is not your grandmothers soul food, which was always laden with artery clogging animal fats. This new version of soul food strives to keep the good taste, give the feeling of satisfaction and maintain the tradition - without the health risk of the past.For example, today's soul food cuisine no longer uses traditional fatback in it's cooking. Fatbackis the layer of fat along the back of a pig. Traditional soul food cooks used fatback to flavor soul food vegetable dishes such as greens, black eye peas and beans.Instead of using the unhealthy fatback in soul food dishes, smoked turkey necks work as an excellent flavor enhancer without the health risk. Smoked turkey necks often have 90% less fat than the traditional fatback.Another change in today's soul food cooking is using less or no salt. Instead of the high concentrations of blood pressure rising salt, other spices work to bring out the flavor of soul food. For example garlic, onion powder, cayenne, gumbo file, lemon pepper and others.Another major change in today's soul food is eliminating animal fat used in cooking, traditionally known to cooks as lard. Instead lighter oils continue to grow in popularity for today's popular soul food cooks. For example, vegetable oils, canola oil, olive oil and peanut oil to name a few.One of the major changes that continue to grow and evolve in soul food cuisine comes in the cooking methods and techniques. The tradition of frying foods in deep layers of fat is being replaced by healthier cooking methods and techniques.Deep fat frying continues to lose it's appeal to healthier cooking methods such as braising, roasting, baking, grilling, broiling, sauteing, steaming and stir-frying. All these methods have been proven to be much healthier than deep-frying.Pork products continue to fade from the tables of more soul food dishes. Pork, long blamed for the high incidence of high blood pressure in the African American community continues to lose it's appeal. Instead healthier soul food dishes include more chicken, fish and vegetable dishes.Yes, with the changes soul food continues to go through even grandma would be proud. Why? Because today's soul food continues to keep grandma's tradition of good taste, family and celebration - but assure those who eat it will be around longer to enjoy it.